|Growth polarity in leaves – a final discussion
Insights into the growth processes of leaf lamina have come from studies on several species including Arabidopsis, Antirrhinum, tobacco and maize. A feature common to the growth of leaf in these distantly related species is the existence of a pronounced growth gradient in the proximo-distal axis -growth at the tip (distal part) is arrested at an early stage while the basal region (proximal part) continues to grow for the longest duration. This is because the cell division is arrested first at the tip at an early stage of development and the arrest progressively spreads towards the base. Along with the strong proximo-distal growth gradient, a milder growth gradient also exists in the medio-lateral axis, such that the cell division arrest travels slightly faster on the leaf margins imparting an overall convex shape to the arrest front. The temporal and spatial progression of the arrest front has not only been implicated in shaping up of a leaf but is also of paramount importance in the maintenance of a flat surface during leaf growth. Although the patterning mechanisms described above seem to operate during leaf growth in many6 species, the molecular mechanisms governing these processes is still in its infancy. Moreover, patterning of leaf growth has been studied only in a handful of model species and, therefore, the information from the vast body of natural variation remains neglected.
Proximo-distal growth patterning by CINCINNATA
Mutant leaves with altered rates or shapes of the arrest front progression deviate significantly from the normal shape and overall flat structure. Mutation in the CIN gene in Antirrhinum and its orthologues in Arabidopsis cause buckling of the leaf due to excess cell proliferation, which in turn is caused by a delayed progression of the arrest front. CIN-like genes code for TCP transcription factors and are expressed in a broad zone of a growing leaf somewhat distal to the proliferation zone. Even though several direct and indirect targets of CIN-like genes have been identified in various plant species, their role in regulating leaf maturity and surface curvature has remained unclear. The comparison of global transcription profile of wild type and cincinnata mutant of Antirrhinum showed that the expression of genes involved in either signaling or biosynthesis of the major growth hormones were altered in the mutant. By combining DNA-protein interaction, expression analysis, chromatin immuno-precipitation and RNA in situ hybridization, we show that CIN maintains surface flatness by regulating the signaling or level of major plant hormones in developing leaves. CIN promotes cytokinin signaling by directly binding to and thereby promoting the expression of a cytokinin receptor, AmHK4, in a spatio¬temporal manner. Furthermore, it also seems to affect GA level indirectly in young leaves by regulating the spatio-temporal as well as levels of GA-biosynthetic and GA-degrading enzymes. Thus, CIN seems to accelerate maturity in leaf cells along the tip-to-base direction through its effect on the cytokinin and GA signaling pathways. In addition, CIN suppresses auxin signaling more at the margin than in the centre by establishing a margin-to-medial expression gradient of a homologue of the auxin suppressor IAA3, thereby suppressing excess cell proliferation on the margin. Our results uncover an underlying mechanism in a developing leaf that controls curvature of the leaf surface by promotion of timely exit from cell proliferation in the proximo-distal as well as the medio-lateral axes via multiple hormone pathways.
Divergent growth polarities in the proximo-distal axis of leaves
The morphogenetic gradient in the proximo-distal axis of a leaf is brought about by the dynamic expression of several heterochronic regulators which can include TCP and GRF classes of transcription factors. Interestingly, many of these transcription factors are also regulated post-transcriptionally by micro RNAs. In case of the studied model species, these factors seem to be associated with basipetal growth. The early arrest in cell proliferation at the tip and continued cell division at the base has served as a paradigm in studying leaf growth and has been used to conceptualize the growth of leaves with different shapes. However, the possibility of the existence of different patterning mechanisms during leaf growth in the highly diverse plant kingdom remains unexplored. Our survey of leaf growth patterns in 75 dicot species reveals the existence of four distinct proximo-distal polarities in growth patterns. Using the law of simple allometry, we also show that the differentially growing regions of leaves bear a constant relationship between them during growth. A combination of cell-size studies, histochemical staining and expression analysis reveals a strong correlation among growth pattern, cell size and the cell proliferation status. The cell size studies also indicate that there is a wide variation in the final cell sizes of leaves and the relative contribution of cell division and cell expansion to the final leaf size can be highly variable.
Furthermore, we find that the varying growth patterns are linked to changes in the expression pattern of miR396, which controls the expression pattern of cell division regulatory transcription factors, the GRFs. Mis-expressing miR396 at the base of the young Arabidopsis leaf caused an early exit from cell division while reducing the expression of the miR396 at the tip allowed cell division to continue for a longer duration near the tip. Our results demonstrate that leaves with similar shapes can be differently patterned and that this divergent patterning is linked to the expression differences in the regulatory micro RNA, miR396
In conclusion, this study shows that regulators like CIN maintain surface flatness of the Antirrhinum leaf during growth by promoting timely exit from cell division along the proximo-distal and the medio-lateral axes; and it does so by regulating multiple hormone pathways. Although the basic mechanism of patterned cell division and differentiation seems to be conserved among species, the polarities of growth can vary. The variability in the growth polarities could be brought about by changes in the trans-regulation or cis-regulatory changes in the patterning genes.